You Got Papers?

“You got your papers?”
“Yeah, sure.” He dug for them hastily in this overcoat pocket. The guard flicked through them, his eyes hard in earnest.
“You may proceed. Do not lose these documents. You will not be readmitted without them. You will be of the quarantine zone.”

He walked past the outpost and into the wastes of the north, a combination of abandonment and war. He’d see no one for miles.

The idea had always been that the further north you went the safer you were. It hadn’t seemed the case when the bombs dropped. They’d not seen it coming; they hadn’t even known what bombs were until they exploded. They’d thought separate meant safe, but it meant only alone.

Once known the threat could be defended against but the community was slow to see the dangers and remained always a fatal step behind.

One man made the truce, with clever rhetoric and adequate funds. Instead of enemies they became the afflicted. Instead of hostile they became diseased, unable to control themselves. Animals instead of monsters. The bombs stopped. The medics went in and for a while they tried to fix the problem of existence but the DNA showed nothing. It never would. For what makes the northmen differ lives outside the skin.

They left; they forgot what to fear, only that there should be fear lingered. The northmen learned and rebuilt in solitude and readied themselves for the moment when the others remembered them. They all knew it could not be long.

He kicked at the rubble with his walking stick. Not safe yet. He waited until the trees grew tall before feeling around in his jacket for the old, rusty key; he’d be home soon.